Sunday, March 06, 2011

Thoughts on Christian unity

I was asked to speak tomorrow in gathering of Christian leaders from different churches in town. The message will be based on John 17:21-26.  Here are some thoughs from my readings:

The Letters of John reveal the existence of deep divisions within the Johannine communities; while there is no hint of reference to them in the prayer it is scarcely conceivable that the Evangelist did not have them in mind as he penned the prayer. Christians from Pentecost on are called to give expression to their unity in Christ, as truly as they are called to give expression to their new life in Christ, and in both cases this has to happen before the eyes of the world. 
The re-creation of believers as one Body in Christ should determine their common life. It is a principle which requires us to begin within the life of the local church, then extend outward, both to relations with communities of the same order as ourselves and to fellowships of Christians of other confessions. In the light of the divisions that have arisen between Christian churches through the centuries, it was inevitable that a movement should arise to call the churches to reverse the trends of the centuries and to seek to experience and express anew their unity in Christ. 
It was equally natural that this movement should begin within the missionary agencies of the churches (as at Edinburgh, 1910), since the divisions were hindering the carrying out of the missionary task; the nations frequently saw the reconciling power of the gospel less clearly than its divisive power. That the World Council of Churches in process of time has made mistakes, and at times even adopted policies that have alienated Christians rather than brought them closer together, is a reminder that churches are composed of sinners saved by grace, and sometimes the sins are more apparent among them than the grace. For this the churches and their agencies have need to repent—again, and again, and again. But they also have need to listen to the prayer of Jesus—again, and again, and again! 
For reflection on the prayer of necessity leads to urgent consideration how the unity which embraces all Christians within one Body can be expressed within their mutual relations, and how it should become a principle of action in the churches’ mission to the world. Perhaps then reflection on the fact that the unity of the Church was the subject of Jesus’ prayer to God rather than exhortation to disciples may drive us to our knees in prayer for grace that his prayer may be answered in us, and in our own churches, that the world may be able to perceive in us the reconciling power of God in Christ.
Source: Word Biblical Commentary (New Testament)

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